This was expected after a 17-win season, the coaching having an uneasy relationship the team’s young stars, and two seasons in a row where the Lakers had one of the two worst defenses in the NBA.
But because they’re the Lakers, it couldn’t happen without drama.
The Lakers took their time getting there but they are making a coaching change. This was first reported by Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical at Yahoo Sports and has since been confirmed by the Lakers.
“We would like to thank Byron for his hard work, dedication and loyalty over the last two years, but have decided it is in the best interest of the organization to make a change at this time,” Lakers General Manager Mitch Kupchak said in a released statement.
The Lakers had a team option on Scott’s contract for next season, reports Ramona Shelburne of ESPN (it had been reported Scott had a guaranteed year, however, he did not meet performance baselines to make that a guaranteed season).
Scott was 38-126 in his two seasons as the Lakers head coach, and the Lakers defense was atrocious both seasons. His old-school manner rubbed the young players the wrong way. Those and other reasons were certainly there to let him go; that said what Scott was hired to do was guide the Kobe Bryant farewell tour the last couple years while the Lakers searched for a new direction and more young talent. He did that — Kobe was put front and center and given all the shots he wanted. In that sense, Scott did what was asked of him.
But it was time to move on.
Lakers GM Mitch Kupchak said after the season that he wanted to take some time, let the raw emotions of the season heal a little bit, then make a decision on Scott’s future. That makes sense.
But in that time two things happened. First came the rumors that Scott could stay on — if Jeanie Buss is going to get her brother and the head of the Lakers’ basketball operations Jim Buss to step aside next summer (something still up for debate), wouldn’t it make sense to wait for the new GM to hire the new coach? So you live with another year of Scott, then make a regime change. Those rumors buzzed around, and there is some logic to that because now if there is a new GM he’s stuck with a coach he didn’t select, and that rarely ends well.
The other was that Scott Brooks took the Washington Wizards job. He was both a great fit for the Lakers, and there was some mutual interest.
The leading name for the job will be Luke Walton, although whether he would leave Golden State for the Lakers less stable organization remains to be seen. If you’re looking for a long-shot name, try UConn coach Kevin Ollie — someone Kevin Durant respects highly.
The Lakers are a development coaching job right now. The Lakers have good young talent in D'Angelo Russell, Jordan Clarkson, Julius Randle, and Larry Nance Jr. — some of whom were not fond of Scott — but they need a couple of seasons of growth and strong coaching development to become the players that lead the Lakers back to prominence. Over the next couple years, the Lakers may draw some free agents once that core is in place as a foundation. But it’s going to be a process — a style of play and a culture must be built.
Whoever the Lakers hire, expect some drama.